Monday, September 18, 2017

Truex Wins!

So there was a NASCAR race yesterday near Chicago.  Our favorite driver, Martin Truex, Jr in the Furniture Row car was the victor! Why is he our favorite?  Because the car owner, Barney Visser, farms many thousands of acres of dryland near Denver and uses AgroLiquid on all of it. Plus he's a nice guy who has visited the NCRS.
I've mentioned this in the past.  But they are having a good year racing as Martin Truex was the points leader coming into the racing Playoffs, and now has a bigger lead with the victory.
 Happy Martin takes a victory lap with the checkered flag.
 At first I thought my TV color was a little off and he was getting doused with Pro-Germinator in victory lane.  But it turns out the race sponsor is Nickelodeon, and was called the Turtles 400.  I didn't understand that at first, but it was for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which is a show on that network.  And slime is part of Nickelodeon somehow.  But congratulations to all.
Well this victory should give them enough money to up their AgroLiquid order for next year.  Who wouldn't do that?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Last NCRS Alfalfa Plot Harvest for 2017

So last Thursday we took the fourth harvest of our alfalfa plots.   These are short plots where there are evaluations of several AgroLiquid treatments, some dry treatments and a combination, all replicated for scientific methodology of course. For this type of harvest we use a leaf flail mower gatherer.  It cuts and blows the alfalfa up into the machine.  It works pretty well.  Here Phil cuts one of the plots.  He goes up and back for the plot sample.  
 Jeff spreads a tarp to collect the cut alfalfa.
 Dump it on the tarp....
 ...and put it up on the scale to get the weight.  We also collect two sub-samples: one for % moisture/dry matter determination, and another to send to a lab for quality analysis.  It was a nice day and went pretty quick.
Here is the aftermath.  Earlier in the year, Zouheir would would do something new.  He would collect alfalfa from the uncut middle section and extract alfalfa sap for analysis to see if this could be a useful analysis tool for measurement of nutrient content. Haven't seen the summary yet.
Well I have a summer's worth of harvest and lab data to summarize.  Better get busy.  We have employed several different plot methods for alfalfa over the many years of the NCRS.  This method works pretty well and doesn't take up a lot of room.  Years ago we had large plots and weighed small bales.  Not doing that again.  We have also made large round bales and weighed them on this same trailer scale.  That wasn't bad, but had to make arrangements for the bales.  One year we used a university method of randomly throwing a hula hoop in a plot and clipping the alfalfa inside the hoop.  This was repeated several times per plot.  Well I thought that was too small of an area and took too long to hand cut all the alfalfa.  And the workers would keep playing hula hoop, so that was no good.  But the leaf sucker method is quick since you just cut and weigh.  This is the last year for this alfalfa field as it is pretty old now.  We have a new field planted nearby that will have our plots for next year. So place your vote for leaf sucker or round bales.  Hula hoop votes will not be counted.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

All Hands on Deck. Navy Bean Harvest!

So what's the first crop taken for fall harvest (even though it's not fall)?  That's right, Navy Beans. Why are they called Navy Beans?  I looked it up and the answer is obvious.  Back in the sea faring days of sailing ships and months at sea, these white beans could be loaded into casks and stored for a long time.  So boat...sailors....Navy beans!  How nutritious.  So the experiment on Farm 7 was ready for harvest.  Last year we harvested here on September 26.  Of course it is documented in the blog.  Really, check it out.  Why so early this year?  Well lack of rain resulted in smaller plants that finished earlier.  Smaller plants close to the ground can be a challenge to direct harvest.  Time was they were pulled, wind-rowed and then combined.  Even with direct harvest beans, they can be tough to feed into the combine.  But the wind reel that we have helps blow them in, so it went well.  Except for the low yields from drought.
As has been seen so many times in harvest blogs, the weigh wagon follows the combine and catches the beans for each 265 foot long plot.  Stephanie had the honor of riding in weigh wagon grain cart and took these pictures.
I showed up later in the afternoon to confirm that it was indeed harvested.  It was.
So in a few weeks it will be soybean harvest....and corn harvest while still making time to plant wheat.  Look for these results in the research report.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Magic Blog

So the blog from yesterday was titled "Send Rain" and talked about how dry it is around here.  Well evidently it delivered as it rained today.  Thank you Magic Blog. Although it was only around a quarter inch, anything is appreciated.  Maybe I should title this one "Send A Million $".  Like the rain, even a quarter of that would be nice.  But I'll stick to my mission here and be thankful for any rain.  Here is a view this afternoon off the back outside balcony of the St. Johns office.
I received this from my daughter and former NCRS summer employee Dana. No doubt you've heard about the terrible fires in the Northwestern US.  Over a million acres burned in Montana!  She lives near Missoula which is in Western Montana, and has sent pictures of smoke-filled skies blocking the sun.  Major fires are not far away and she has her evacuation bag ready for her and dog.  Resources are stretched to breaking point and the major defense appears to be to wait for snow.  Too many disasters going on now with fires and hurricanes.  Pray for all the people.
 And since we are on a weather theme, here is a look at my oh-so-accurate Ford Flex thermometer from yesterday morning.  37 degrees on September 6 is too cold no matter where you are.  You may recall that we have a record holder employee at the NCRS for the state's biggest watermelon in state contests, Tim Brussel.  He said that he has been covering his giant watermelons and pumpkins with blankets and feeding them warm air from a heater at night.  Floods, fire, cold....challenges abound.
But we forge ahead like any farmer would.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Send Rain

So here in Central Michigan we are operating in a rain deficit for sure.  There was less than one inch in July and two inches in August, which is nearly four inches short of normal in those two months. We have some alfalfa fertilizer experiments with a couple of local dairy farms near the NCRS.  Intern Jacob had kept up with these during the summer, but he had to go back to MSU. Darn skool anyway. That meant I actually had to help with this fourth cutting.  Here was a dryland field that we harvested today.  It is very dry, with cracks in the ground.  Not a lot of hay on the ground.

 I think I showed this operation earlier with the summer crew.  But Jacob built this frame used for uniform sampling.  We use clippers to cut the ends and use what's in the frame for our sample.

 Then put it on a tarp and carry to our small scale trailer.  Tim and Phil are loading the sample.  Since I had to help and keep track or weights and samples for moisture and lab submission, I was actually pretty busy.  Well they were too, I guess. So somehow I forgot to take a picture of the scale trailer. But we really did have one.

 So compare that field with this irrigated one that we sampled last Wednesday.  This proves taht water is good.  On that day agronomist John helped Phil and me.  Thanks John.  FYI if you're not familiar with dairy hay operation: a day after cutting the alfalfa into these rows, they will merge several of these rows together and then chop it up with a forage harvester and store it in some fashion to feed to the cows.  They can use machines like those shown in the blog about the AgroExpo.

 But outside of irrigation, it's dry.  These are trees in a field behind my house and they are losing leaves already.

 And this is a dryland corn plot on Farm 7 of the NCRS. Ouch!
This was the scene over in the apple orchard last Friday.  We can irrigate it with drip hose in each row.  But where are the apples?  Well they've been harvested already.
 There are a few trees that were left for us, like these Honeycrisp apples.  Aren't they nice and red for Honeycrisp?  Well they were treated with Fase 3 for color enhancement.  And yes I picked and ate some.  Deee-licious!  FYI if not familiar with Fase 3.  It's not chemicals, but Agro nutrition that does that.

So we will keep hoping for rain.  You might have noticed what looks like rain clouds in the background of the picture today with Tim and Phil.  Well they were, but not for us.  Went around.  It's was so terrible with all of the rain that fell in Texas from the hurricane and drought up here.  Need to work on supply distribution.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Farm to Fork 5K at the NCRS

So Saturday morning was the Fourth Annual Farm to Fork 5K race at the NCRS.  The NCRS sure has been a busy place lately.  Here is what my Flex thermometer read when I got there.  I know Michigan is way up North, but 40 degrees is too cold for August no matter where you are.  
 Once the sun came up it warmed up fine.  Farm Guy was out greeting the runners as they showed up.  Wonder if he will run this year?
At 8 sharp, the race started.  I guess Farm Guy will be a watcher this year.  Me too, although like usual, I will be watching in the rear view mirror.  I was driving the lead Gator, so they had to follow me.  I'm glad I didn't get lost, but just follow the white line.
 And for the third time out of four years, the champion is Eric Lowe.  I always say that Eric wins because he used to work at the NCRS years ago in the summer while in high school and college.  I still remember that he would ride to work in the morning with his brother, and then run several miles home after work.  He works in accounting in Grand Rapids now, but trains and peaks for this race each year.  Pretty good time too.
 A short time later Nick rounds the corner for home.  He was going so fast the picture is blurry.
And there goes Erin from Accounting.  She has to stay in shape to manage all of the fertilizer accounts.  So you'll know your account is racer verified.
Obviously not in contention for a top finish are Todd and John, who are enjoying the scenic walk.  Although I think John is trying to remember where he parked his semi-truck.
Bringing up the rear are Tracy and some guy that looked kind of familiar.  Nice ride.
 Here is the NCRS version of Heartbreak Hill.  You can see the yellow flags for the finish line, so not too much farther.
Overall champ Eric and his trophy pose with Farm Guy and AgroLiquid CEO Troy.
It was nice for Troy to be able to be at the race this year.  For some reason you never saw Troy and Farm Guy at the same time.  Hmmm. But here they are now.  Well it was a good time and a good event.  Thanks to the runners and sponsors, over $27,000 was raised for the supported charities: the Greater Lansing Food Bank and the FFA Foundation for scholarships.  Did you know Troy is President of the Board of Directors of the FFA Foundation.  So he is pleased with the outcome for sure. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

NCRS Learning Opportunity

(Sorry for the delay in service, but the blog writer has been delayed with mountains of administrative stuff lately.  You know how important that is to research, right?)  So as you have probably figured out, the NCRS is more than just the finest crop fertility research facility anywhere. It hosts Farm Shows (AgroExpo) and also is a training facility.  Like the day after the AgroExpo, a bunch of AgroLiquid Retail Partners hung around for a day of agronomy training. There were three outstanding morning presentations in the shop. One of which was by Darren Hefty who was kind enough to stay and talk about what to look for in the soil for growing top crops.  Of course he referred to the research-proven AgroLiquid nutrition. 
Then we all loaded up the wagons for some stops in the field to bring folks up to date on recent research findings.  Like Stephanie here shares research results about foliar fertilizer applications to corn, including use of the 360 Undercover.
Tim talked about what is what with side dress applications, featuring the 360 Y Drops which we like.
 Agronomist John covered soil and tissue testing.  It was good info.  Why take the time to do something if you aren't going to do it right.  I like the saying: "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"  That's why every one of these blog posts is done right!
And what would an NCRS tour be without seeing Zouheir in his soil pit?  Well fortunately we didn't have to find out.  If you haven't seen him talk about his soil research from a pit, well then what's the use of living?
 We also had a field diagnostic stop.  Why are those soybeans short and uneven? If you said photon torpedo strikes, well you would be wrong.  It is from soybean cyst nematodes (SCN).  Only a couple from the group correctly diagnosed it by looking.  Fortunately intern Katherine is a plant pathology major at the Ohio State University, and has worked in a lab that dealt with SCN.  So she had plenty to share, and did a great job telling us all we needed to know about the lowly nematode.  She did such a good job that the sky turned Scarlet and Gray for this Buckeye.  (Katherine was a delight to have at the NCRS this summer, as were all the interns.  But we had frequent debates about which OSU was tops.)
Here is a close up pic of the nematode cysts, the white things there.  Those are females and loaded with eggs.  The larger normal beneficial soybean nodules are at the bottom.  Oddly enough a number of years ago we contracted SCN in this sandy soil and worked to grow several years of corn and have since planted soybeans with SCN genetic resistance.  And had not seen it for several (maybe ten?) years and actually kind of forgot about it.  Well for the AgroExpo we planted a new variety from a seed company in this spot and developed nemo's.  I asked Tim for the variety info and this variety did not have any SCN resistance.  So it showed that even years later, the SCN is lying in wait for a susceptible root to grow it's way.  
Scary.  Just remember: nemo pseudo.  (Anyone know what that means?  It was important to me once.)